Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 501–514 | Cite as

Geographic Variability in Salt Marsh Flooding Patterns may Affect Nursery Value for Fishery Species

  • Thomas J. MinelloEmail author
  • Lawrence P. Rozas
  • Ronald Baker


Flooding of salt marshes controls access to the marsh surface for aquatic organisms and likely regulates the value and use of this habitat for juvenile fishery species. We examined geographic variability in marsh access by measuring tidal flooding characteristics in 15 Spartina alterniflora marshes in the southeastern US between South Texas and lower Chesapeake Bay. Flooding duration and flooding frequency were correlated with the elevation of the marsh edge in relation to mean low water and with the tidal range. Mean annual flooding duration over the years 2006–2008 was highest in Texas (91.5% in Aransas Bay) and North Carolina (89.3% in Pamlico Sound) and lowest in Timbalier Bay, LA (54%) and the lower Carolinas and Georgia (55–57%). We used published data on densities of blue crabs and penaeid shrimps as a measure of habitat selection, and there was a positive relationship between marsh selection and flooding duration.


Blue crab Nekton Penaeid shrimp Spartina alterniflora Tidal hydrology 



We would like to thank Robert Twilley, Marcus Sheaves, Irv Mendelssohn, Cherie O’Brien, and Brian Fry for the discussions and ideas that were helpful in developing the manuscript. Thanks also to David Walters for providing USGS water level data from Grande Terre, LA. Aleta Hohn provided valuable assistance in the field. Phil Caldwell created Fig. 1 and calculated distances from marshes to tide gages. Partial support for this research was provided by Miles Croom and the Southeast Regional Habitat Office of the National Marine Fisheries Service. This research was performed while R.B. held a National Research Council Research Associateship Award at the NOAA Galveston Laboratory. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the NOAA Fisheries Service.


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (outside the USA) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas J. Minello
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lawrence P. Rozas
    • 2
  • Ronald Baker
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service/SEFSC, Galveston LaboratoryGalvestonUSA
  2. 2.NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service/SEFSC, Estuarine Habitats and Coastal Fisheries CenterLafayetteUSA
  3. 3.Tropical Landscapes Joint Venture, Australian Tropical Science and Innovation PrecinctJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia

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